• Tuesday, 25 June 2024
BWIRE – Tackling Disaster During Rainy Season Needs Combined Efforts

BWIRE – Tackling Disaster During Rainy Season Needs Combined Efforts

The current heavy rains and associated flooding that has ravaged many parts of Kenya are natural events whose mitigation is beyond one institution- it requires a multi-agency approach including leadership from the national government, through a declaration of the situation as a national disaster.

The trail of deaths and destruction of property being experienced requires urgent joint action by the national and county governments, the private sector and international humanitarian agencies to mitigate the devastating effects of the heavy rains.

Many times, the country has been found knapping whenever disasters occur, leaving behind a trail of destruction. The Country’s overall disaster response mechanism is reactive and only focused on what the government can do.

The Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD) has been very apt in predicting with prolonged rainfall in some parts of the country, which required the attention of the several sectors in the country across the board- which we miserably failed as a country. The early warnings didn’t receive the urgent attention required and the mobilization of resources to mitigate the effects.

As usual, the country’s coordinating unit whenever such natural disasters happen is the National Disaster Operation Centre (NDOC) leads other Government agencies including the National Draught Management Authority (NDMA), National Disaster Management Unit (NDMU), the Kenya Red Cross and the County Governments at their level.

The scale of the current flooding is beyond county governments, even if they have structures- the delay in the release of funds from the national government to the county- can never allow them to respond effectively to emergencies.

The weather people jointly with sector reports already indicated the likely adverse effects of the heavy rains across the country: people living in cities, landslide and flood prone zones, structural and nonstructural mitigation measures are recommended to avoid damage and losses to lives and properties.

For actors working in the agriculture and food security sectors, there is need to maximize the good rains to boost crop and forage production and avoid planting crops in flood and landslide prone zones.

Priorities for the livestock sector include massive livestock vaccination and promote livestock insurance, among others. In the water sector, there is need to close open dikes and strengthening weak ones; intensify rainwater harvesting; maintain strategic borehole for pastoralists; de-silt water pans and carry out construction of new ones; and carry out effective reservoir management as well as manage conflict in known hotspot zones.

In the water sector, we could have worked on intensifying rainwater harvesting; open and dikes and strength weak ones, open trenches, and water movement pathways, maintain strategic borehole for pastoralists; de-silt water pans and carry out construction of new ones; and carry out effective reservoir management. The planned movements of people to safe areas do not need to have waited for abruptly night raids.

The Government had started radio stations in disaster prone areas- which were doing very well in early warning and calling to action, which unfortunately were abandoned by being starved of funding.

The media is inextricably entwined with disasters and hazard mitigation. Improving the linkages between the media and disaster-mitigation practitioners could prepare the public to act promptly on warnings, helping to mitigate disasters. This could also accelerate the shift of the societal emphasis from post-disaster relief toward pre-disaster initiatives. Citizens rely on the media for public information and education focusing on early warning, evacuation, and coordination of post-disaster relief.

Not only do the media play a vital role in the reporting of ongoing crises, but also at every stage of disaster management: from before a disaster strikes, through the heart of the crisis, and during the post-disaster recovery phase.

Contributions made by the media can save lives and reduce economic loses to a considerable extent. Just as is the case globally, disaster warning systems do not work independently. The media, especially the mass media, are expected to play an especially important role.  The mass media is equipped with the ability to gather information and report it to the public after verifying the validity of such information.

Real time communication on disasters is possible through usage of digitalised media including the social media, making it possible for Kenyan to quickly respond to any eminent danger associated with the rains.

The private sector should support both national and county government efforts to mitigate the effects of the ongoing flooding- for several vehicles being swept away, of people drowning- or effects of the destroyed roads are more felt by the private sector. Maters of corporate responsibility and serious human caring citizens should contribute to the mitigation measures.

Victor Bwire works at the Media Council of Kenya as the Director for Media Training and Development and is an environmental journalism tutor and writer.

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